Background: Mexico
In 1951 Porter, wife Aline, painter Georgia O'Keeffe, and poet Spud Johnson drove from Santa Fe for a several week visit to Mexico. That initial trip sparked a more comprehensive expedition four years later. From November 1955 to April 1956, Porter and a friend, photographer Ellen Auerbach, traveled over 10,000 miles and took over 3,000 photographs documenting the churches and traditional celebrations of the south and central regions of the country. After exhibiting eighty-three of these images in 1957, at Limelight Gallery in New York City, Porter set the photographs aside for more than thirty years to concentrate on his nature photography. In 1987 he and Auerbach published Mexican Churches, and in 1990 they published a related book, Mexican Celebrations.

Porter's church studies are generally carefully balanced, frontally composed, and naturally lit 4-by-5-inch views of facades, side chapels, main altars, and wood or wall niches presenting Christ, the Virgin Mary, or various saints. His mostly 35mm festival views, on the other hand, present parades, processions, carnivals, and ritual dances, offering a spontaneity that is not typical of his art. Both groups depend on bright color and vivid decoration, but where the church images are somber, the festival views are cheerful. Most of the 276 Mexican prints in the collection are church views and some are dye transfer prints that Porter made from Auerbach's transparencies. The artist seems not to have made exhibition-quality prints of most of his celebration images, creating the book on that topic directly from his transparencies.

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